Who Is That in My Mirror?


In the Old Covenant writings in the Bible (I Samuel 16) is the important story of the choosing of David as the next king of Israel. As Samuel is considering the candidates, God cautions him not to pay attention to physical height and strength (outward appearance), but to remember that “. . . the Lord looks on the heart.”

There is some crazy stuff on television these days, but maybe it has always been that way. Our family got our first TV set when I was six or seven years old. Television and I effectively were children together and grew in tandem. As expected, I had some favorite shows, and one of them was “You Asked for It.” The original show ran for nine seasons or so and it reappeared in later years in a bit different format a couple of times. As happens, the original was the best.

Since television was so new, no one knew what options were available for programming. “You Asked for It” took advantage of that vacuum and asked viewers to request what they wanted to see. The result was people (mailing postcards) asking for unusual sights or entertainment acts they had heard about. The doors were wide open for interest and fun.

Want to see a cat playing ping pong? You got it. Want to see a true bull in a China closet? Here it is. Want a glimpse inside the vaults of Fort Knox? Watch here. Every week was filled with odd and attractive requests.

One of my favorites was a performance by the Fli-Back Paddle Ball “World Champion.” Since I had had multiple Fli-Backs already and had gotten rather proficient, this champion was an awesome sight. With a toy moving in each hand, he danced, stood on one foot, turned somersaults—it was fantastic to my eight-year-old self. 

Some of the requests asked about special effects from movies and television. How are those done? Among the most fascinating to me involved a young man and woman who had just married. Their request was to see what they would look like as they moved through life. That is, as the years went by, what would their respective physical appearances be?

Since I was a young boy at the time, that was a question I had also. I knew what my parents and grandparents looked like; what would I look like when I was as old as they are? Did you not each wonder the same thing?

Taking up the challenge, the show recruited some expert makeup artists. The couple was on the show for two consecutive weeks. On the first show, their request was revealed to us viewers. During the subsequent week, they spent days with the makeup artists as they were gradually artificially aged. A still photograph was made each progressive day, but not revealed to the couple until the second week.

When the couple and we saw the photos, everyone was fascinated. As the years “went by,” the couple quite gradually changed in appearance. A few wrinkles appeared: then several more. One of them got glasses and, a bit later, the other did. Hair thinned and changed color. Their faces added puff in some areas. Clearly, the photos were of the same people, the very two standing on camera right now. On the other hand, the couple seemed sobered at the photos. Is that really what I will look like when I am my grandparents’ age? Is that what my life partner will look like?

The couple seemed to change from giggly newlyweds to much more serious people. Those of us watching, it seemed, had similar thoughts.

Who among us really dares to consider our future in terms of physical appearance or anything else? Our life experiences already have informed us that such wondering is fraught with imprecision. No other human has avoided accumulating totally unexpected changes in life. It can be, frankly, unnerving.

This is clearly an unavoidable part of being human. Followers of God are not immune to such thinking. When I was a newlywed, God loved me. Now, when I am the oldest person in almost any room, God loves me. I want the quality of my heart to be acceptable to God. 

Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current hospice chaplain

One comment

  • I loved this piece, Jim. I am of your generation, but I don’t remember that TV program. You are so right about the human condition–it’s a good thing we don’t know our futures when we are young. God gives us the strength and grace for each day as it comes–that is enough.


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